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Sunday, December 03, 2023

What UF calls research one group calls torture

A member of the extremist animal rights group Negotiation is Over may face criminal charges for violating a trespass order by distributing fliers on campus offering $100 for personal information about UF researchers who use animals in experiments.

UF police confirmed that Lisa Grossman, 50, of Jacksonville, entered the Cancer and Genetics Research Building July 9 to distribute the fliers.

Grossman, along with fellow NIO member Camille Marino, was issued a trespass warning Dec. 18 after staging a protest during a fundraiser inside the Curtis M. Phillips Center.

University Police Department Maj. Brad Barber said campus police are taking all necessary steps to secure campus research facilities.

"We are reminding all staff, faculty and students to be aware of their surroundings and circumstances, report suspicious activity to us and allow us to investigate," Barber said.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said the university filed a complaint with the state attorney's office Friday.

On Thursday, Sikes, UPD Lt. Scott Summers and professor Henry Baker of the genetics department held an informational meeting in the Cancer and Genetics Research building for those who wanted to know more about the incident and NIO. Sikes said UPD believes someone let Grossman into the building on July 9, since students and faculty are required to scan their Gator 1 cards for entry.

"The University of Florida strongly condemns the tactics used by this particular group," Sikes said. "They have used mischaracterizations and inaccuracies, and their rhetoric is extremely strong. Their only intent is to intimidate and harass."

Claiming members of UF's faculty have participated in animal torture, NIO has posted personal information of faculty members.

The website now includes a section titled "Activism Tools," with links to other pages training activists to expand their computer-hacking skills or even "F*** With Vivisectors" from home by making prank phone calls and spamming their email.

On the "War on Vivisection Students" page of the site is an image of the flier Grossman distributed, asking for pictures and personal information of researchers in exchange for money.

Under the image is this warning: "Students also need to understand that making the wrong choice will result in a lifetime of grief. Aspiring scientists envision curing cancer at the Mayo Clinic. We need to impart a new vision: car bombs, 24/7 security cameras, embarrassing home demonstrations, threats, injuries, and fear. And, of course, these students need to realize that any personal risk they are willing to assume will also be visited upon their parents, children, and nearest & dearest loved ones. The time to reconsider is now."

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Sikes has been dealing with NIO since October, when it launched its campaign against animal researchers at UF.

NIO has since posted a picture on its anti-UF blog of Sikes holding a sign which has been doctored to read, "Defending Our Right to Torture Animals Since 2007."

According to the UF Office of Research's handbook on using animals in research, all experiments involving vertebrate animals must first be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

IACUC approval meetings, which establish the necessity of using animals in research and provisions for their welfare, are open to researchers and the public.

According to the animal use handbook, researchers must avoid or minimize animals' distress and pain, use sedation, analgesia or anesthesia and practice appropriate animal husbandry at all times.

"Anyone you know who has had a heart transplant ... Anyone who has had a medical procedure, it's likely that it was successful because of animal research," Sikes said. "Every medical advancement we have around the world, we have because of biomedical research."

Camille Marino is the founder of Negotiation is Over, which she said is not an organization but consists of 3,000 independent, decentralized activists.

NIO has targeted other research institutions in the past, but its website now features a link to a dedicated blog about UF. Marino said she is currently targeting UF because she lives in Gainesville.

"What you euphemistically call a researcher I call animal torturers, so if you're an animal abuser, we intend to collect as much information on you as we can," Marino said.

Marino said she and other NIO activists were gathering information about animal researchers to "expose atrocities that occur behind closed doors at UF." "I do believe that animal research, as you call it, is a war crime, nothing less," she said.

Although she said she believes animal cruelty must be stopped by any means necessary, Marino said she does not plan to use violence herself.

"I do not advocate violence, nor do I encourage it," Marino said. "If I provide information about somebody who is doing violent experiments on animals and they are justifiably retaliated upon with violence, this has nothing to do with me. I am simply reporting facts."

When Derek Jacobs, a graduate research assistant in molecular genetics, heard an NIO member had trespassed on university property, he said he became curious about NIO's objective and checked out its website.

He said he didn't find a direct description of NIO's beliefs and that it seemed activists were more comfortable with scare tactics than reasonable arguments.

"As a researcher, I didn't feel that was the right way to frame the argument in the first place," Jacobs said.

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